Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes
Richard Matheson
Other Kingdoms
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2011

Tor Books / Tom Doherty Associates
USA First Edition Hardcover
ISBN 978-0-765-32768-0
Publication Date: 03-01-2011
318 pages, $24.99
Date Reviewed: 02-27-2011

Index:  Fantasy General Fiction

The leaves rustle, but nothing can be seen. The branches wave luxuriantly, even though there is no breeze. Though the world is still, you know you are being watched.

Perhaps that which moves through the leaves, the breeze that blows the branches, the eyes that gaze upon you do not strictly reside in this world. We have all felt the presence of an adjacent world, of a place and a time, and even a people who are not in the usual sense here. It is all easily dismissed. It is better ignored. Paying attention to that which is not apart of our everyday reality can be hazardous to your mental and physical health. Of course, it can also bring you one step closer to heaven on earth.

Richard Matheson is attuned to that world. He's lived in it professionally, and brought back from that place stories that reside in the American story as myth, as legend. He's the author of 'I Am Legend,' and indeed, he is legend. Before our passenger planes became victims of hijacking, before they were transformed into weapons and turned against us, Matheson brought back from that adjacent world our fears, and put them on the wing of a plane. He anticipated what would come to pass and turned it into a myth about belief and action.

With his latest novel, 'Other Kingdoms,' (Tor/ Tom Doherty Associates ; March 1, 2011 ; $24.99) Matheson goes one step farther and takes readers into his world, into that world next door, The Middle Kingdom. It's enchanted all right, but that sword cuts two ways. You can fall in love and you can quite simply fall. The trick is to enjoy the first without succumbing to the last, to balance on that precipice. It is perhaps easier, smarter, more enjoyable and more useful to read about it than experience it.

Matheson's novel is told from the perspective of Alex White, an aging author of weird fiction who writes under the name of Arthur Black. Black is quite famous for his Midnight series. White is an entirely different kettle of fish, a man who has finally decided to tell the truth about his inspiration. It is, of course, at least as fantastic as anything he has written.

Matheson's novel follows a young Alex White, an American soldier recuperating from a difficult stint in the Great War by fleeing to the quiet English village of Gatford. But that is not to be his final destination. There he meets Magda Variel. She will lead him one step farther than Gatford, though he will not leave the confines of the village. In the neighboring woods, he will find a neighboring world.

Matheson is a consummate craftsman who knows how to make the unreal real, how to guide readers from the world they reside in to the next world, the world he creates with his prose. He does so by keeping all things low-key. He only tweaks one aspect of reality at a time, and often does so with a gentle sense of humor. As he leads White into the realms of faerie, the Middle Kingdoms, he manages an authenticity and realism that are often absent. As White's perceptions of reality change, so, too, will the reader's. Words can indeed create world, but the most enduring and real of those world contain both danger and beauty; often in the same guise, or guide. Matheson deftly combines suspense and romance in a novel that is compelling and entertaining.

No matter what Matheson writes about, he does so with an easy sense of authority. He simply seems to let a story that has along existed, a tale that has been waiting to be told, to unfold. Matheson strives for reality and manages to evoke it because he understands that our understanding of the world is emotional and irrational. His work is informed with the essence of human stories. It is both simple and powerful. The 'Other Kingdoms' to which Matheson's character Alex White, destined to become the writer Arthur Black, journeys, are the kingdoms to which we awake each day. They are new worlds, the worlds we make as we move forward with out hearts and our minds. They are as close as our breath in the still morning chill.

Review Archive
All Reviews alphabetized by author.

General Fiction
Non-Genre, general fiction and literature.

Supernatural fiction, supernatural horror and non-supernatural horror.

Science Fiction
Science fiction, science fantasy, speculative fiction, alternate history.

Fantasy, surrealism and magic realism.

Crime, thrillers, mystery, suspense.

Non-Fiction, True Crime, Forteana, Reference.


Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us